Newsletter November 2001

Every time we add something new, you'll see a linked guide to it here,
with an archive of past additions.

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We skipped the October 1 Newsletter. Our efficiency dropped temporarily due to the big events of September 11 just over a mile south of our studio. But we’re back, slightly ahead of the first of the month in order to provide a timely Halloween-friendly download. It’s business as usual, we’re very happy to say, and a large update.

Johnny Reinhard’s Raven is an extraordinary CD of his compositions for exotic instruments tuned in various microtonal scales. It’s music that starts out sounding out of tune, but once your ears adjust you wonder how you ever missed out on it before. Remember, for example, that the blues is sung with flattened notes that you won’t find on the piano (the so-called ‘blue notes’). A slower, funky electro/club mix might be the polar opposite of Johnny’s exotic, floating, moody music, but he provides sounds that a remixer might kill for. We have remixed his setting of Poe’s The Raven, with an appropriately electro-Goth treatment. It’s dedicated to New York University, for their recent demolition of Poe’s house on West Third Street in New York City. Pick up the free mp3 from the Downloads page. It's over nine minutes long, but you can preview it before committing to a long download.

Mike Thorne, who remixed the track, contributes Ravening to his extensive collection of production anecdotes. Making an electro-dance track based on Johnny's original mysterious and moody recording is potentially suicidal, since it's hard to imagine two styles being any farther apart, but he owns up to the fear and talks about how the whole piece emerged.

Surround sound is very much in the news, but many of its musical issues were debated nearly thirty years ago when surround’s predecessor, quad(raphonic) sound, which used four speakers in the room’s corners, was all the rage. It’s time for an introduction to current surround technology, in characteristic Stereo Society geek-speak-free terms.

After reading this introduction, we suggest checking out the other three historical articles we present, which are from the previous quadraphonic era but discuss the music and its production values in ways which still apply today. Notable is an article from the British Studio Sound magazine by renowned engineer/producer Alan Parsons about the making of the quadraphonic version of Dark Side Of The Moon in the quadraphonic sound of the time. Naturally, this one's called Four Sides of the Moon.

On the classical side is a joint article from the same magazine by the producer and engineer of an enormous classical surround recording, of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Written in the early twentieth century, it requires solo singers, a large choir and a considerably augmented symphony orchestra. Recording the piece for stereo is always a challenge, for surround even more so.

A long article written by Mike Thorne in 1974 deals with the musical possibilities of surround sound: Quadraphonics and Music. The new ways of approaching surround sound back then were exciting, and were being explored for the very first time. Such ideas still work today, in their contemporary extension to 5.1 surround (DVD-Audio), but we now have a better technical foundation.

This month’s trivia question is ‘what do Britney Spears, Roger Daltrey, the Communards, Creed and James Brown have in common?’ Of course. String arrangements by James Biondolillo, known informally as Jimmy B in a determined attempt to limit spelling mistakes. In his wide-ranging 25 year career through many branches of the New York music business, he’s seen it all, as they say. You can experience his interview in words (with musical examples) and also through streaming audio.

To round things off in a big update, there are production notes on Quadrafile, a unique collector’s item produced by Mike Thorne in 1974, a double album that cut identical material on all four sides in each of the four competing quadraphonic systems of the time. At the time, and possibly for the first time, you could hear Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic, Tubular Bells and Pink Floyd all on one side. It was a remarkable logistical effort, probably only achievable by a young naïf…..

A few extra non-mp3 downloads this month with three print-friendly versions of the historical surround sound articles. There’s also a hi-res version of our marquetry gramophone mascot (which appears in its real colors on the home page). It prints up nicely at 10”x8”. You'll find all of these on the Downloads page.

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